Also called banjo fig, fiddleleaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is an evergreen tree indigenous to tropical Africa. In the wild, the tree can grow to heights of around 100 feet, with a spread of around 60 feet. The tree may be pruned heavily, however, to allow it to maintain a smaller, longer bush-like habit. Fiddleleaf fig may also be grown inside, where it typically grows 2 to 10 feet tall.
Fiddleaf fig increases its common name in the lush, shiny, dark green leaves, which have a violin shape. Leaves are rather big, growing to lengths of around 18 inches. The plant has a spreading, round habit with brownish-gray branches. Once broken, branches exude a milky white sap. Though rare in occurrence in captivity, mature fiddleleaf figs in the wild will create small fig fruits which have a diameter of around an inch.
Fiddleleaf fig is quite frost-sensitive. As an outside plant, fiddleleaf fig is suitable only for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 12. The fig will grow in full sunlight to partial shade. Fiddleleaf fig is tolerant of a range of soil types, as long as they are well-draining. Outdoor plants are exceptionally drought-tolerant and moderately tolerant of salty, coastal conditions. Leaves can produce a bit of a mess when they fall near walkways and patios.
Where not sturdy, fiddleaf fig may be grown indoors as a houseplant. The fig requires bright, indirect sunlight or partial shade. The fig is likely to scorch in direct sunlight, particularly in the afternoon. Use a container that is deep to accommodate the tree’s long roots. Water frequently through the growing season, reducing the amount of water in the winter. The plant shouldn’t be allowed to become “bone dry” — so dry that the dirt starts to crack at the faces of the pot.
Fiddleleaf fig is easily pruned to allow it to maintain a sensible size. Pruning can even enhance the overall look of the plant, giving it a bushier, narrower and much more lush look. Use a sharp knife or pruning saw to cut off the top of the soft trunk at the desired height. Throw away the top, or spread it to a new plant by wrapping the underside of it with moist sphagnum moss, securing it in a plastic bag, and waiting about a month or so to allow it to develop roots.